It was my first day back at work yesterday and already people have commented to me on how they’ve gained weight over the Christmas period and that they need to do something about it. I was thinking of something useful to say, but I realised I actually had a lot to say about it! I can get where they are coming from. In the past, after Christmas and New Years and I’d literally feel my heart start pounding at the stress I’d gained weight and start formulating how I could get rid of it ASAP. Egg white omelettes, protein bars, shakes, lots of exercise…. But all this did was leave me feeling out of control and anxious about how I looked. Fast forward to today and things are much much different! If you feel you’ve gained weight over Christmas, here’s what you need to know….
Firstly stop stepping on those scales!!!
If the number you see makes you feel bad, (or good one day then bad the next) then they are NOT serving you and really, what does that number even mean? It cannot tell you your self worth but often we let it dictate just that. From a physiological perspective, an increase on the scale doesn’t always mean you’ve gained body fat anyway! When we eat more than usual, we store some of the glucose from food in our muscles and livers as glycogen. This also stores some water with it, so both of these can contribute to increased weight. Also eating more salty foods can also cause you to hold more water – thus increasing your weight. That’s why scales are NOT useful. Do us all a favour and get them out of your house.
It’s time to stop measuring your self worth by the size of your body!
A change in perspective
Instead of stressing about your change in size, have a think about the times you enjoyed with family and friends, and how you were blessed to be able to enjoy the foods you love with the people you care about. Because lets face it, looking back are you going to remember gaining weight at Christmas time or the experiences you’ve had with your family?
Reflect on your eating experiences
Did you mostly listen to your body in terms of what you felt like eating, your hunger/fullness and satisfaction or did you fall into the mindset of “I’ll just eat everything and get back on track next year”. It’s normal to sometimes eat past the point of comfortable fullness, but if it’s a regular occurrence then it’s a sign you may be out of tune with your internal signals.
In the past, I gained weight at Christmas time because I saw it as a green light to eat all the foods I usually restricted and believed I shouldn’t eat. I ate with little consideration to my hunger or fullness cues and didn’t pay attention to what my body felt like eating. It would be part of a yo-yo cycle of weight gain/weight loss/weight gain and it’s something I’m glad I’m no longer caught up in!
Because I don’t weight myself I have no idea if I’m heavier or lighter but I know I listened and responded to my body. Yes I was quite full on Christmas day, but it wasn’t every day over the holidays I felt like that. If I wanted a chocolate I’d have some but I wouldn’t eat until I felt gross where as I would have in the past just to get rid of them.
Body weight can go up and it can go down
We have a set point range in which our bodies try to maintain balance. Just as your weight may have gone up a little, it could also go down a little. But there’s no point going on a diet or going to extreme measures as these can do more damage than good. This blog post talks more about this concept
It’s not the weight gain that makes you feel bad it’s what you tell yourself it means.
Sound like crazy talk?? While this can be a bit of a challenging thought, it’s true. Maybe your pants are a wee bit tighter than normal, but in the majority of cases it’s not really this that’s making you feel bad, it’s what you think the weight gain means.
Often it’s along the lines of:
“I don’t look as good – I feel less attractive”, “I’m less worthy if I don’t look a certain way”, “I just feel gross about myself”
These beliefs are ingrained in our ideas about what the ideal body is – an image sold to us by the diet or even the wellness industry – we wouldn’t buy their products if we were happy with how we looked! The pervasive idea in society is that if you just ate the right foods and did the right exercises, then we’d all have the perfect body. But we are all built differently. Some people are naturally lean, some are more naturally larger. It’s called diversity and it’s real! No body is better than another, it’s just our cultural norms that make it seem that way.
Instead of thinking about the next diet, here’s what to do instead:
- Start to pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues. Learn about what foods satisfy you, and leave you feeling energised.
- Move your body in a way that makes you feel good. See exercise as a form of self care, not a punishment of what you just ate or the size of your thighs.
- Eat mindfully. Learn about intuitive eating. Enjoy the food you are eating – food is MEANT to be pleasurable so don’t feel bad about eating.
- Be kind to yourself – work on changing your self talk and building better body image.
So if you’re feeling a wee bit blurgh about your eating patterns and your body, take a deep breath and be kind to yourself, remind yourself all the great things your body can do for you. Remember your body is not your masterpiece, it’s simply the vehicle for you to live your life in.
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